The Generative Potential of Appreciative Inquiry as an Essential Social Dimension of the Semantic Web

The Generative Potential of Appreciative Inquiry as an Essential Social Dimension of the Semantic Web

Kam Hou Vat (Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Macau, Macau)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-650-1.ch021
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The mission of this chapter is to present a framework of ideas concerning the expected form of knowledge sharing over the emerging Semantic Web. Of specific interest is the perspective of appreciative inquiry, which should accommodate the creation of some appreciative knowledge environments (AKE) based on the peculiar organizational concerns that would encourage or better institutionalize knowledge work among people of interest in an organization. The AKE idea is extensible to the building of virtual communities of practice (CoP) whose meta-data requirements have been so much facilitated in today’s Web technologies including the ideas of data ownership, software as services, and the socialization and co-creation of content, and it is increasingly visible that the AKE model of knowledge sharing is compatible for the need of virtual collaboration in today’s knowledge-centric organizations. The author’s investigation should provide a basis to think about the social dimension of today’s Semantic Web, in view of the generative potential of various appreciative processes of knowledge sharing among communities of practice distributed throughout an organization.
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In the late 20th century, Tim Berners-Lee (1999) had the idea of providing rapid, electronic access to the online technical documents created by the world’s high-energy physics laboratories. He sought to make it easier for physicists to access their distributed literature from a range of research centers scattered around the world. In the process, he laid the foundation for the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee has a two-part vision for the working of the World Wide Web (, representing the next stage in the evolution of communication of human knowledge. The developers of this new technology have no way of envisioning the ultimate ramifications of their work. Still, they are convinced that “creating the ability to capture knowledge in machine understandable form, to publish that knowledge online, to develop agents that can integrate that knowledge and reason about it, and to communicate the results both to people and to other agents, will do nothing short of revolutionize the way people disseminate and utilize information” (Musen, 2006, pp. xii). This article is meant to provide a strategic view and understanding of the Semantic Web, including its attendant technologies. In particular, our discussion situates on an organization’s concerns as to how to take advantages of the Semantic Web technologies, by focusing on such specific areas as: diagnosing the problems of information management, providing an architectural vision for the organization, and steering an organization to reap the rewards of the Semantic Web technologies. Of interest here is the introduction of the appreciative context of organizational systems development based on the philosophy of appreciative inquiry (Cooperrider, 1986; Gregen, 1990), a methodology that takes the idea of social construction of reality to its positive extreme especially with its relational ways of knowing.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Appreciative Processes: These are processes to leverage the collective individual learning of an organization such as a group of people, to produce a higher-level organization-wide intellectual asset. This is supposed to be a continuous process of creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge accompanied by a possible modification of behavior to reflect new knowledge and insight, and to produce a higher-level intellectual content.

Appreciative Knowledge Environment (AKE): A work, research or learning environment to incorporate the philosophy of appreciative inquiry in support of a cultural practice of knowledge sharing among organizational members.

Knowledge-Centric Organization: Any organization whose knowledge focus is to provide mechanisms for building the knowledge base of the firm to better apply, share, and manage knowledge resources across various components in the company.

Community of Practice (CoP): These are people who come together around common interests and expertise. They create, share, and apply knowledge within and across the boundaries of teams, business units, and even entire organizations—providing a concrete path toward creating a true knowledge organization.

Semantic Web: The Semantic Web is an evolving extension of the World Wide Web in which the semantics of information and services on the web is defined, making it possible for the web to understand and satisfy the requests of people and machines to use the Web content. It derives from W3C director Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of the Web as a universal medium for data, information, and knowledge exchange.

Appreciative Settings: A body of linked connotations of personal or collective interest, discrimination and valuation which we bring to the exercise of judgment and which tacitly determine what we shall notice, how we shall discriminate situations of concern from the general confusion of ongoing event, and how we shall regard them.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI): Appreciative Inquiry is about the co-evolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms.

Virtual Organizing: A method to operationlize the context of appreciative inquiry, with the technology-enabled capability to assemble and disassemble nodes on a network of people or groups of people in an organization, to meet the demands of a particular business context. In virtual organizing, virtuality is a strategic characteristic applicable to every organization.

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